Best Business Ideas for 2023: New Ways of Working

Businesses are constantly adapting to a myriad of challenges. What product or service can you sell in 2023 that will cater to the new ways of working?

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Permacrisis was the word of the year in 2022, as small businesses grappled with a seemingly never-ending series of challenges. Skyrocketing energy bills, post-Brexit red tape, and a cost of living crisis – you name it, SMEs are changing the way they work to accommodate it.

Underpinning these issues is a hiring crisis that has employers scrambling to attract and keep talent. Managers are still catching up to employee demands like flexible work, which has become the preferred option among the UK’s workforce.

But new ways of working go beyond giving staff the option to work from home for half the week. Modern businesses are completely rethinking the benefits, training, and office facilities that they need to offer staff. And all of this has opened up plenty of business opportunities for savvy startups responding to these trends.

So, how are businesses making the most of new ways of working, and what innovative, revolutionary business ideas will set 2023 alight? We cover some of our top picks below.

Rethinking the modern office

The UK has now stopped publishing COVID-19 modelling data, and the height of the pandemic disruption is fading into distant memory. But the legacy still remains, and many of us have soured on the idea of five days per week in a grey-walled, uninspiring office space.

With 56% of workers reporting an increase in happiness when WFH, it is hugely important that organisations focus on making their office environments as attractive as possible if they’re to tempt staff back in. And that presents some fantastic opportunities for creative new businesses willing to help companies adjust their working environments.

Employers have to focus on their employees' needs by creating workspaces that provide benefits over working from home. This could include a social aspect to the office, or an interior with warmth and comfort – rather than a cold, drab building filled with antisocial cubicles.

Many businesses have cropped up in this space as a result of increasing demand for an alternative office environment, and there’s plenty of room for further innovators and disruptive startups to come.

Spinning on an office chair among the biggest success stories is Flexa, a Startups-100 listed company that has undergone astronomical growth since launching in 2019.

Cofounder Molly Johnson-Jones founded the company after spotting a discrepancy between the job descriptions of companies that were advertising as flexible, versus their actual offering. Johnson-Jones lives with a chronic auto-immune disease, which can make it difficult to commute.

In an earlier job, she asked her employer if she would be able to work from home one day per week. Almost immediately, she was sacked.

Flexa acts a global directory of verified flexible companies. It ensures job hunters can trust they are applying to roles where the promise of flexible work will genuinely match their expectations. Amongst the companies that have been stamped as Flexa-verified are Virgin Media UK, Mars UK, and the RSPB.

Business ideas to consider

Office design consultancy

If you’ve got experience in interior design, this could be an ideal project for you. As a design consultant, you’ll be suggesting innovative ways to make a company's office space more functional, more aesthetically pleasing, and more attractive for hiring and retaining staff.

Meeting room rentals

When it’s time to call a hybrid team to come together for a creative session or an all-hands meeting, businesses will need a special type of space. Meeting room rentals are the answer.

Owning a property that you can transform into a meeting or event space is ideal, but to reduce costs you can work with building owners to design a space that can then be rented out to businesses and event organisers, letting them take a small cut for allowing you the location.

In-office childcare

Most companies won’t have in-house staff who are qualified to set up and run childcare facilities. As a startup in this space, you’ll be able to showcase the benefits of in-office childcare for working parents, and offer qualified childcare services at a competitive price.

Having the necessary qualifications in childcare is vital, as is ensuring you’ve employed a team of top professionals. Positive reviews and referrals will be your greatest asset as you look to expand your operation – Glassdoor feedback on businesses offering such perks could be the free marketing you need.

See our guide on How to Start a Day Nursery

AI, VR, and AR

Five years ago, concepts like Artificial Intelligence (AI) felt like futuristic ideas that we knew were happening somewhere, but weren't really having a direct impact on our lives.

It was a simpler time. As the gamechanging popularity of smart chatbots like ChatGPT has shown, it’s already the here and now. Similarly, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in the workplace are no longer the stuff of science fiction. AI, VR and AR all have a part to play in permanently shifting our ways of working.

Let AI take the pain out of process

Charles Brecque is cofounder of Legislate, a clever AI software that gives small businesses access to watertight, lawyer-approved contracts in the case of a dispute.

Business users can utilise contracts that are machine readable thanks to Legislate's patented knowledge graph technology. This means they can be created digitally by non-lawyers and queried at scale – dramatically simpifying the role of HR teams.

“I spent half my time processing contracts when I was doing business development at a startup,” says Brecque. “Clients need more efficient legal solutions which is why there's a real opportunity to solve these problems with technology.”

Legislate is particularly innovative in today's business climate, with insolvencies and job losses expected as a result of a looming recession.

There is a real opportunity to solve these problems with technology.

Redundancies or invoices defaults are not nice for anyone involved. But an important business relationship can be made worse by a void or improperly written contract that can leave firms vulnerable to backlash from unhappy exiters or partners.

“The consequences of not having a solid contract can lead to a loss of IP, revenue or even the business,” says Brecque. “The challenges of today make it even more important to be aware of the dangers of weak contracts.”

VR applications for learning and development

An interesting usage of VR in the workplace is for learning and development purposes. One recent survey conducted by Software Advice revealed that 40% of UK SMEs now use VR tools to train staff.

A perfect example of a successful startup in this space is Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing. Launched by Lee Chambers in 2020, the consultancy firm uses VR to tap into the trend of supporting employee health and wellbeing. Chambers says this is fixing a key problem with today's inclusion training.

“There is often a gap between knowing and doing,” he elaborates. “We use VR experiences to simulate a day in the life at work for people going through specific health challenges, and people from marginalised groups.

“Users get to see the day through someone else's shoes, hear their thoughts and get a taste for what it would be like to be in that position themselves. Following the group having the experience, we faciliate conversations on how people felt, what they noticed, and what they could do differently in their working lives.”

Virtual Reality is fixing the gap between knowing and doing.

With VR no longer exclusive to science or tech sectors, now is the time to get excited about potential applications in other sectors. For example, an estate agency that can let house buyers view multiple virtual homes in a fraction of the time.

Chambers agrees. “I expect VR and the wider aspects of the metaverse to continue to grow throughout the year, and while unlikely to be universally adopted, will be found popping up in some exciting niche areas while our attention is taken by AI-driven copy and imagery,” he nods.

Business ideas to consider

Training simulations that improve work performance and safety

You don’t have to be a design wizard or VR expert to get started in this sector. If you have experience in a particular industry or profession that you think would benefit from VR training, then why not put together a concept for a training programme?

You will need a number of solid ideas for specific training programmes, and should be prepared to confidently explain these to any VR designers you get on board.

We would recommend testing out the market before you invest in a VR training programme for a particular sector. Launching a minimum viable product to put out the feelers is a great way to understand user feedback. If it is positive, you know you can sell the product to businesses.

Data protection and cyber security

The new era of remote working has brought about many challenges for businesses, including an increased threat to cyber security. That means a genuine opportunity for new businesses to train and protect companies and their employees, as well as safeguarding any assets.

QMS International’s CyberSecurity Survey Report identified that 75.7% of business owners felt their business was now at increased risk of a cyber attack due to more people permanently working from home.

All of this makes 2023 the ideal year to jump into the data protection and cyber security game. If you’re tech-savvy, have experience in cybersecurity, or have a revolutionary idea to help reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack, this could be your chance to help protect businesses around the country.

One of the most common threads running through this year's Startups 100 Index was the trend of cybersecurity. 1 in 20 businesses in our top 100 was focused on supporting individuals and organisations to defend against hacks or threats in 2023.

One such company is Worldr. Founded by Max Buchan in 2019, the ‘zero trust’ extension adds privacy, security and compliance layers into an organisations' existing business communications. Because of this USP, the platform eliminates the complications of moving to a new tool and can be added at the push of a button.

Buchan came up with the idea after seeing how many businesses were relying on communication platforms that weren't necessarily secure. “There are brilliant tools out there, Microsoft Teams, Slack and WhatsApp to name a few – but keeping these all in line with different data and compliance laws around the world can be complex,” he outlines.

“Instead of coming up with ‘another secure messaging app', I thought that enabling people to use the platforms they already love in a safe and compliant way would add a lot more value.”

I thought that enabling people to use the platforms they already love in a safe and compliant way would add a lot more value.

Worldr has hit upon the key requirement from today's SMEs. Cybersecurity is a difficult subject to get to grips with: by emphasising ease-of-use and seamless integration, Worldr provides a solution that is painless for customers and 100% trustworthy.

We ask Buchan: what does he recommend for other startups looking to set up in the space? His answer? Look to the clouds.

“As remote work becomes the norm, startups should consider developing services that provide better visibility and control over cloud infrastructure and remote devices,” he says. “Stay up-to-date with the latest regulations and global data requirements in order to prevent force majeure and stay competitive in the market.”

Business ideas to consider

Design new security features to help keep businesses safe

Identifying and creating a product that combats the latest cybersecurity threats is a sure-fire way to grow your business venture, and help thousands of companies in the process.

Having a solid background in computer science and technology will stand you in good stead. But, even if you’ve got a great idea without the expertise, there are plenty of freelance programmers and IT professionals who you can hire to help develop the concept.

Outsourced IT management for small businesses

Running an outsourced IT service that makes things easier for small businesses is a great business opportunity. Many companies will need to outsource some aspects of their IT, including cybersecurity, data protection and user management.

If you build good relationships with your clients, you can even offer ongoing consultation with them for an additional fee. You can appeal to smaller businesses and growing ones by scaling your offering and price plans accordingly.

Final thoughts

The way we work is constantly changing, driven by changing customer or staff expectations, or even events out of our control (like a global supply chain crisis). If you’re looking to establish a business that rides the wave of these changing trends in the workplace, then you need to be versatile and responsive.

UK startups have proven their resilience over the past few years. Be ready to adapt and deal with changes, and really understand the needs of your clients before you offer them services.

Research and understand your field, as new ways of working can get quite technical. And remember that by smartly focusing on the needs of the modern workplace at such a pivotal period of change, you could be positioning your business for years of success to come.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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